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To Kabuki or not to Kabuki, that is the question?

So, a week ago today I visited Kabuki on a blogger invite to get the word out about their new “Japanese comfort food” concept.  I have mixed emotions…so many, that I’ve been putting off this post for a whole week!  Kabuki is a Japanese restaurant for, “..all mankind..”  boasting that,  “…we guarantee you will walk out hooked on our food.”  That is one powerful claim, but that was not quite my experience.

I eat sushi, a LOT of sushi and I enjoy Japanese food.  However, I am very picky about where I eat raw food as I had food poisoning once from ill prepared sushi.  So, with only hearing so-so reviews about the food I did not go for any raw sushi…I wanted to try the cooked food first. 

I brought my husband along because I knew there was bound to be something he would enjoy on their menu.  Food Tramps in Training, let me give you a warning right now:  The Kabuki menu is gargantuan…I’m talking 6 pages alone for their drinks/sake/beer/ wine, 2 pages for appetizers, 3 pages dedicated to sushi, and another 3 for entrees…I still haven’t included the lunch and dessert menu!  I really should have done more homework on their menu because upon opening it I just felt like I was hit by a big truck that was full of WAY too many decisions regarding food.  I did indeed look over this huge menu on the internet before coming to dine, but I never really looked at it…even looking at it online was a little much.

Luckily, we came at the last ten minutes of happy hour and our super nice server, Mike, was willing to give us a few minutes to make some choices from the happy hour menu.  I wasn’t all that impressed with the happy hour menu.  It was less in price than the regular menu, but it was not $2.00 rolls or even $1.00 rolls like I have seen at other sushi joints that have better sushi.  We ended up ordering the sesame chicken ($4.95)  California roll ($2.95) and the shrimp tempura roll ($4.95).  As we were still reviewing the normal menu our server brought us edamame.  I must say that it was the best edamame I have ever had!  If there is one positive, definite thing I could say about Kabuki,  it is their ability to perfectly salt and prepare their those peas :)

sesame chicken

Our appetizers came and the sesame chicken was good.  It was hot (temp wise) and crunchy and had a great sweet sauce that had a nice hint of spice.  Since I didn’t “know” their sushi we opted for the very clique, common cooked rolls.  They were very good!  The California roll was fresh and just what a normal California roll should be.  I was much more impressed with the shrimp tempura roll.   The cucumber in this roll was sliced in bigger pieces which I enjoyed because I could really taste the light freshness of it next to the crispy shrimp.

pretty good for happy hour

I still had no idea at this point what I should order for dinner.  My husband knew he wanted the breaded seafood ($13.95) listed under “signature dishes”.  I seriously needed two more hours to look everything over and was just overwhelmed…so much so; that I decided to ask the server two dishes he would recommendand I chose one.  He mentioned the curry shrimp ($12.95).  I love love love curry, any kind of curry so I figured I couldn’t go wrong with that. I really should have gotten  a noddle bowl and I’m really kicking myself in the behind for not doing so…but shoulda coulda woulda! 

Jeremy’s dish looked good to the eye, I’m really not into fried seafood unless im in the Keys, or unless I’m at a fish fry so I left it all to him.  He told me it was good.  He mentioned that it all tasted the same though.  He said from the eye he could see what was what between the fish, shrimp and scallops, but he could not taste a difference in any of it.  His dish came with asparagus, white rice and a side salad.  Plenty of food for the price.  My shrimp curry came highly recommended, but I was not so impressed.  It came to me beautifully arranged on the plate.  My first bite was a bite of cold pan seared shrimp along with cold curry sauce.  At first I thought maybe it was just that one shrimp so I tried another and it was cold as well.  So disappointing, but we didn’t have time to send it back and since I was basically eating free I really didn’t want to be “that guy” who complains about his food.  The curry was too creamy and almost chalky tasting and had no zip to it whatsoever.  I’m sure this dish would have been way better had it come to me hot temperature wise and spice wise.  I have no desire to try that again though.

the shrimp curry that wasn't

fried seafood

We decided to get dessert as I was curious if they could get that right.  I chose the item on the menu that was marked “chef recommended” so I was assured that it would be good.  I ordered banana tempura ($5.95)  I love anything tempura. I was envisioning fried bananas with some ice cream, maybe a little cinnamon sugar or confectioners sugar on the bananas with lots of yummy sauce of some sort.  It ended up being many pieces of tempura banana with a light dusting of confectioners sugar paired with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and some caramel sauce.  For me the best part was the caramel sauce.  There was not enough sweet to go with the savory of the thick tempura crust on the banana.  I think there needed to be much more powdered sugar and more caramel sauce.  I ended up removing the tempura completely and just ate the banana with the ice cream.  My husband ate only two bites and was not impressed either.

more caramel sauce please!

 

All in all I have come to this conclusion.  I will not put Kabuki on my “worst of” list but I certainly could not put it on my “best of” list either.  If I ever walked through their doors again it would be for , sushi, sake and happy hour.  For me it’s all about keeping it fresh and simple and that’s not really what Kabuki is about.  I can see why we may never strike a BFF culinary friendship. If you’re curious though, you should definitely go and see for yourself.  Please comment back if you’ve had a great experience and a dish that was amazing, I would love to hear!

Inside Tempe Marketplace adjacent to Barnes and Noble

2000 E Rio Salido Pkwy

Tempe, AZ 85281

489.350.9160
Kabuki Japanese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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